AMD & Autoimmune Disease – A Connection?

Hello, folks! Here we go again with a topic that is so far over my head I never should have even attempted it. Oh well, one of our readers asked the question. And besides, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what is a heaven for?” (Robert Browning – and one of my favorite quotes?)

So you have again been forewarned. I am slogging through medical research and I have no clue what 90% of what I am reading means. If you get confused, just consider who is doing the interpretation!

The question was: can AMD be considered an autoimmune disease?

The answer is probably, maybe. They are working on that now. Can I get back to you? Like next year, maybe?

I am sure we all remember the alternative pathway of the complementary immune system. ? From what I remember things this system deals with include inflammation and the release of macrophages (big eaters) to clean up the mess. Macrophages are sort of the carrion eaters of your body.

According to webMD inflammation is supposed to protect us from foreign substances. It occurs in response to chemicals and involves an increase of blood flow to the affected area. Fluid leaking into tissues can cause redness and swelling. Swelling can cause damage.

Autoimmune conditions occur when there is no foreign invader and the body starts to identify its own tissues as something foreign. Healthy tissues come under attack.

AMD is an inflammatory disease. It would make sense that with chronic inflammation, the signaling system could easily go awry and result in ‘friendly fire’ casualties. By my way of thinking, this might be even more likely because both inflammation and macrophages are part of the innate immune system. The defenses of the innate immune system deal with nonspecific targets.

Morohoski et al. wrote a paper on autoimmunity in retinal degeneration. He (she? It is K. Morohoski) states “a growing body of evidence indicates that AMD pathogenesis too involves ocular inflammation and autoimmunity.”

But it is not just inflammation and the complementary immune system they are now suspecting. Now they are even suspecting involvement of the adaptive immune system. That is the one in which defenses are ‘made to order’ as opposite to ‘one size fits all’. Think antibodies and developing resistance to a disease; that immune system.

Anyway, now they are thinking damage may cause a breakdown of the blood/ brain barrier – remember the eye is the only part of the brain you can see with the naked eye! – and antibodies may be released into the eye. Some of these are retinal autoantibodies. These are proteins that will attack the retina of the host.

So, in answer to the question: it seems reasonable AMD is an autoimmune disorder. It seems probably that not only is the non-specific, innate immunity system in the mix but the specific, adaptive immune system is involved as well. Is it written in stone? Nope? Are they ready to uncategorically declare AMD an autoimmune disorder? Not yet, but I would predict it is coming.

Next: Winter War

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